Hershey vs. Knoebels

I grew up going to Knoebels Amusement park, and then I moved to Central PA with Hershey very close by. We went to Hershey a few years, paid for by my husband’s work, but were turned off by the high price to go otherwise.

Until this past summer.

Partly as a gift from grandparents, we got season tickets for the whole family to go to Hershey. So now we can really compare the two. Our conclusion at the end of the summer surprised me.

Point by point, I’ll compare our experience at these two Pennsylvania amusement parks. My kids, all elementary aged, had a very clear preference.

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In fact, we couldn’t even bribe them go with us to Hershey by the end of summer. They said NO to an amusement park! They said they’d rather stay home.

1.PRICE Comparison

Hershey: Every person has to pay admission to enter–whether they ride a lot or ride zero rides. (That was always a big negative to me. We usually have a non-rider in our family.)

Knoebels: No admission fee. You buy tickets or a hand stamp for anyone who wants to ride. Non-riding parents or grandparents who just want to enjoy watching don’t pay.

Hershey’s day price: Approximately $54, with some deals to be had for cheaper admission.

Knoebel’s day price: When our kids were small, we’d buy the tickets and spend between $20 and $40 a day. (Yes, that’s right: my entire family went for less than one person getting into Hershey for a single day.) Now our boys are older, and paying for big rides with tickets is not the best value, so we opt for hand stamps for all day riding. The cost is almost $49 for an all-day pass for one person, including wooden coasters; $44 a day for all rides minus wooden coasters. Difference: Knoebel’s offers a cheaper price for kids under 48 inches: $32 (including wooden coasters) and $26

Single-Day cost Winner: Knoebels. Our family can go to Knoebels for about $130, now that our boys are older and want hand stamps for coasters. (We’d not buy hand stamps for the adults; if we want a ride or two, we’d buy individual tickets per ride.) Hershey Park would cost, minimum, over $250.

Full disclosure: we had Hershey season passes–which is a good value because you can go unlimited times through Sept 30 for less than the cost of buying tickets for 3 days.

Season Pass Value winner: Hershey. I wish Knoebels had a season pass!

2. FOOD Comparison

Knoebels: Food choices include sit-down restaurants and counter-service places. Everything from pizza (by slice or pie) and (my favorite) perogies and tri-tators, and the newer international foods pavilion with the Mexican food. Cost ranged from a few dollars to $6-8.

Hershey: Counter service and cafeteria style eateries: pizza, burgers, hot dogs, etc., and a few chain restaurants: Moe’s, Chic-Fil-A, Nate’s Hot Dog stand. The typical meal was over $7-$12 cash, on the higher end if you wanted a side or drink.

                    My two favorite Hershey meals: Moe’s and ——-

Other difference: Knoebels allows outside food to be brought in, so we always packed lunch and ate dinner there, making Knoebel’s food cheaper in yet another way.

Food Variety: Knoebels’ wins for variety. Hershey has fewer options, though most are duplicated in multiple places within the park, wheres Knoebels has one location for each.

Quality of eating experience: Knoebels wins this easily. At Knoebel’s, you may wait in line sometimes for a few minutes. You may have to wait some minutes at a table while you food is being prepared. But at Hershey, even if you choose to eat at an off-time, say mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, you can stand in line for well over 20-30 minutes at least (We never even went on the busy weekends, so I don’t know how much worse it could get).

I was used to thinking that different members of the family could eat food from different places because, at Knoebels, you really could grab pizza for one kid, then swing by the Mexican place and get everyone else tacos. But after a few times of trying to get food from more than one place at Hershey led me to realize that it took an hour and a half. Do that twice in a visit and you feel like you spend half your day in line, waiting to eat. Even when I required we all get food at the same place, the typical 30 minute wait at most places was undesirable. THIS is a big reason my kids stopped wanting to go.

3. RIDES Comparison

Variety of rides: My kids preferred the many roller coasters at Hershey to the few big coaster offerings at Knoebels. Over-all, Knoebles has a lot of variety, but simply fewer big coasters.

Closed rides: Hershey was very poor in this respect. I get that they cut down on staff by closing a percentage of rides on weekdays when park volume is lower; but it means that the rides open are crowded. As we went to Hershey’s water park almost once a week, my kids found that certain attractions were simply never open on weekdays. It seemed that they perhaps opened them only one weekends when attendance was at peak. We could never go on weekends, so it’s kinda crazy, after a whole season, and paying for season passes, there were many rides we wanted to try that we never had opportunity to try!

4. ENTERTAINMENT Comparison

Quality: Hershey’s Music Box Theater performances wowed my kids. We often saw shows more than once. (There was a show for summer and one for Christmas.)  Knoebels’ shows are simply not produced on that Disney-like scale.

Variety and frequency: Knoebles wins, hands-down. It has a LOT of entertainment. Multiple stages, indoor and outdoor, featuring oldies bands, magicians, comedians, puppeteers–all sorta of things! There are shows scheduled all day. At Knoebels, it’s rather geared toward the older crowd, and there are plenty of places to sit and rest. Also, there is a children’s theater where kids get to put on costumes and act parts as a play is narrated. (My kids have done that multiple years; it’s one of their favorite things.)

5. ATMOSPHERE COMPARISON

Knoebels: completely family friendly. And the kids love the playground! There are many trees, much less blacktop!

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IN SUM:

In sum, Knoebles remains my family’s favorite, despite fewer coasters. It wins in every other respect. My kids kept asking last summer when we would go–I said, no, we had Hershey season passes. They can’t wait to go to Knoebels this summer!

I think Hershey is only tolerable IF you have season passes. The amount of time waiting for food or popular rides means you can accomplish so little in a single day. Having a one-day pass would be frustrating–especially for those of us who’ve been to other parks with more favorable experiences. In fact, all this waiting is why my kids all eventually preferred not to go–before our season passes ran out. They were sick of waiting in line–for everything.

Do you have a different preference? Share!

Other posts:

Eating Grain Free/Sugar Free at Hershey Park

Being a Good Sport Parent

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts

 

 

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Being a Good Sport Parent

Watching my son in Little league last season transformed me as a baseball parent. It was my son’s third year of Little League baseball (year 5 playing the game if you count tee-ball). I was transformed by an attitude change. Mine.

Inexplicably, my son has always been obsessed with baseball. My husband and I were always miffed by this. We did not groom this love. I never played a team sport, and my husband was forced to play for a couple years, and those stories reign as examples of a great injustice in his childhood.

And yet, we somehow had a kid begging to play by age 4. And we let him, after I found the program that required the least amount of time. (I willingly paid more $ to have him play less ball…) Time was precious. I had a baby and another toddler during my eldest son’s t-ball years; my saving grace was that over-priced program that required only 6 Saturdays.

My son continued to grow in his love of the game, despite remaining an average or below-average player. When he started Little League, he was one of the few kids who sat on the bench the most, played far in the outfield the most, etc. So the growth of his obsession was hard for us to justify.  But because he loved it, we let him play one season a year–but not fall ball, though he asked.

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My husband and I openly groused about how an upcoming baseball season would eat away our evenings and weekends. I complained to friends about how it ruined supper and maxed my creativity to figure out how to feed the family when the only dining options were 4 pm or 8 pm. (I even complained in a blog entry before: The “Perfect” Schedule–and When It Falls Apart.) I dreaded practices and games at which I had to wrangle the younger brother and baby/toddler sister; it was exhausting, often in unfavorable weather, and turned our evenings into everything I try to avoid: rushed, feeling trapped at a field with hungry kids (who really just couldn’t eat at 4 pm…), frazzled, and wiped out by the time we got home with the youngest having hit her witching hour/the point of no return…

For many years, my husband had a travel job, so I did a lot of this myself; when my husband was in town, his attitude was much like mine, but with the added baggage of having hated playing it himself and his loathing of the one sport our son chose.

And I have to say, after not much exposure to baseball prior, baseball is a SLOW game. I was amazed my son had the patience for it at all. It mostly consisted of him standing and waiting or sitting and waiting, punctuation by a few intense minutes where he tried to hit the ball but usually struck out or got walked to first base.

So last year, I signed my son up for baseball with the usual resignation. My husband and I started our yearly habit of complaining when the pre-season practices began the first week of February. (Groan… Seriously. Where we live, they start this early every year, though we know other area leagues wait another month or more.) We grit our teeth and drove our son to practice further from home fields to an indoor location while the ground was covered in snow.

Then he had his first game last spring. It seemed a day like every other. I brought a back pack full of books so I could lesson-plan–hoping I could manage some productive work while my five-year-old played with stones and flowers at the bottom bleacher.

The game started. I got out my books. I opened one.

Then my son was up to bat, and I put the book down. He was second in the batting line up. (Second?) And he actually hit the ball!

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Then something so unexpected happened that I never returned to my books for the rest of the game: the coach called my son over and asked him to take the pitcher’s mound. My son, pitching? I’d never seen this before. For years, he’d wanted to pitch, he said, but on teams with much stronger, more experienced players, he’d never even practiced pitching. He was clearly not on any coach’s radar.

And yet, a new coach saw something in him and called him up.

My son had pitched a lot–in our yard. He and his one best friend will play nonstop for 6 hours, just pitching and hitting to each other. For years, he’s been soaking up every opportunity his older friends will give him to play.

But I’d never really watched, at least not recently. But apparently, he’d been making good use of his time and the challenge posed by the older boys.

And suddenly, as my son took the pitcher’s mound, it was like he was a whole different kid. I watched him pitch is first game, wondering, “When did he start throwing with such confidence like that?” “Where did he get that form?” “I didn’t know he could throw that far!”

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Baseball was never the same after that day for me. The game of watching him wait out of the corner of my eye while lesson-planning was over. My younger kids were frustrated this season because I no longer would take them to play on the nearby playgrounds at some fields; I used to know that, after he’d had his turn at bat, we had a large span of time where we could walk over to the playground and not miss him doing anything.  But now my oldest was in the action, playing in the infield, getting outs against the other team and even pitching some games.  His coach saw him as one of the two most reliable hitters, so he was usually second at bat. (We barely had time to go to bathroom breaks now without missing my son doing something on the field now!)

My husband and I saw this transformation, and it changed everything about how we regarded the game. My son awed me with his work ethic and transformation.

We saw the evidence of how much heart our son put into this. He took it so seriously and worked so hard at it. Our son is not one with natural talent that stood out; he wasn’t bigger or faster or superior in any way. When I think about it, the fact that he stuck with it at all is extraordinarily commendable. The strength of character he showed to stick with a game with few rewards or recognition for his efforts, for so many years–and then come out at age 10 with some skills that stand out–well, that won my admiration. I’d always loved him and rooted for him, but now I was seeing the evidence of something new bloom in his character.

My husband and I , believe it or not, were inspired to not only curb our complaining but also, we–separately and with no knowledge of the others person’s change of heart–started thinking we should let our son play fall ball as well. (If anyone would have told me last February that I’d suggest to my husband to let our son play in the fall–well, I’d have had a good hearty laugh at that one! “Ridiculous!”)

But we did. He played fall ball and loved it. He had another new coach who  saw his potential as a pitcher and who encouraged him to introduce himself to the next new coach by owning it, saying, “I’m a pitcher.”

And we, the parents, the adults, stopped complaining about what it was doing to our lives, to our dinner time, how the season shifted things for the family, etc. I repent my old attitude now and that for years my son had a mom who complained about the time it took and what it demanded of me.

I’m always teaching my kids and students about not complaining and about having the maturity to not ruin others’ experiences. I’m always telling my kids, “The world doesn’t revolve around you and what you want.” And yet, as a parent, I have wanted our world to revolve around what I want. And I wanted our children not to play any sports that required anything of me at certain times of the day or for a certain number of hours or more.

So now I’ve had my big lesson on being a good sport for my child. It’s not fair to say I support my child’s endeavors and then complain for months, roll my eyes, vent to my friends about the inconvenience, and moan any time I hear the word “baseball.”

Sometimes our kids really do teach you some things. I have so much respect for my son’s growth and I want to honor that. (I wish only that I had wanted to honor that even in the process, not just when it came to fruition.)

Am I alone in this, or have you experienced a similar phenomenon? What character growth have you attained because of your kids?

Other blogs entries:

When People Treat Pets Like Babies…

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts

 

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Pitching a Book to Nine Agents: Lessons Learned

Nine. That’s how many times I’ve pitched my novel idea to an agent or acquiring editor. The transition from writing to pitching is really steep; if you’re an artist and not a salesman, it’s terrifying! I’ve spent years trying to manage the completion of my novel Still House, and I’m finally (finally!) at the stage of trying to find an agent–someone who believes in my book enough that they will go to lengths to sell it to a publishing house.

Some of my pitches were miserable (both in that I didn’t know what I was doing AND that the results were less than desired). But some were met with enthusiasm and a lot of really encouraging comments. Between those two varied types of experiences? 5 years and a lot of learning and practice.

Agents #1, #2 and #3:

My first was the worst. Nearly six years ago, I had my story, but I was struggling to finish the novel before I gave birth to my third child. I was at a conference that was very friendly to new writers and those who were not quite done. Agents and editors were willing to speak with people who weren’t done, just to give them practice and guidance. I had NO game. I went in trying to summarize my behemoth of a dual-time plot with as much grace as an elephant on in-line skates. I saw three agents that day.

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The response? The first was very no-nonsense. She was from a big publishing house, the most influential of that market, and she had little patience, while being polite, for my pitch. I didn’t know enough to know I shouldn’t have bothered trying to pitch to her. I had no idea that all the books they published had a very specific view of women’s fiction that required my novel to have only one point of view character who must be a woman as well. My 4 POV (point of view) character novel, two of them men–never had chance. Not only was she not interested, but she was not encouraging. She told me not to try to finish such a complicated story with so many main characters; she said a first-time novelist should start with a single point of view character, that’s it. Another agent had a similar response.

I had one positive experience that year. One agent was interested and gave me her card for after I finished. She gave me a reading recommendation of another writer who succeeded trying something similarly complicated.

Agents #4 and #5:

So then I had a baby and my project was shelved for a while. But I finally got back at it and attended a smallish conference with agents for multiple markets.  This time I had a practiced, memorized pitch. But it was agonizing, it was complicated–like my plot. I’d sat in a class at that conference, writing and rewriting it, then spent the evening in the hotel practicing and practicing, making it the most stressful conference I’d ever gone to! I met with two agents, with the caveat that I knew I wasn’t done because I needed to cut a lot of words to meet industry standards. Both editors were provisionally interested. One said, she’d be interested if I really focused on one storyline over the other.

Agent #6:

A year later, I was going to my biggest conference yet. I had hired an editor that year to help cut the book down. The book was meant to be done before this big conference–my most intimidating one so far. This was serious, this was real. But the editor who thought she’d be done with the book prior, wasn’t. She promised it’d be just a few weeks. So I went to pitch my book to a big New York City agent who specialized in debut authors of my genre–with the promise that I’d have the completed manuscript back from an editor in mere weeks.

This time, my pitch was more refined. I managed to get across the two timelines of my story and the main characters. I had my pitch memorized, but worked to make it relaxed, not rattling off words like someone had a gun to my head. The agent and I had a reasonably good conversation–and he wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I expected.

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The agent was interested and asked me to send first chapters. (Sadly, this modest success was all circumvented by the editor not being done in a few weeks. Long story–and that’s an entirely different topic. What ensued was the unable-to-conceive-reality that it’d be another year until I actually would get that manuscript back from an editor, finished!)

Agents #7, #8, #9:

Late spring, I went to another conference, big in my experience. I had two pitch appointments with editors scheduled. And then something perhaps lucky or providential happened the morning of my appointments. I went in to the tail end of breakfast, and the silverware from the tables had all been cleared away. Except one table. One girl was sitting there, and I joined her.

We chatted a bit, and I asked what kind of writing she did. She said, “No, I’m an agent.” I thought I knew what all the agents looked like, but she looked somewhat different from her picture, and I really had no inkling. So then she asked what kind of writing I did. And we had a nice, easy few-minutes conversation about literature. I did not try to pitch my book to her right then and there. It didn’t feel right.

But I talked about how much effort I’d put into this complex beast of a dual-timeline plot I’d been trying to master and how I’d invested years into trying to figure out how to tell the story I was passionate to tell. In those few minutes, I was impressed with her knowledge of the genre I write in, and she told me other writers and books to check out; she really knew the market.

So later, I check with the person managing all the agent appointments to see if this agent had any openings left. I was given her last appointment of the day.

Which was awesome, because of the three, she turned out to be the most enthusiastic.

All three appointments went very well–the agents met my work with interest. Even the one woman who made grown men nearly cry. (True story; while I awaited my turn, an older man who’d gone before me was visibly shaken as he shared how curt and non-encouraging this particular agent had been. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that either.)

For this pitch, I had a memorized pitch designed to hit all the points–but with one difference compared to ones in the past. I’d learned at a baby shower–of all places–the key to hooking others’ interest.

Photo from iStock

Let me be honest, I was still groaning two months prior when anyone asked what me novel was about. Because I struggled with how to succinctly portray it. Over the years, I’ve tried many angles. I’ve tried to talk about the two marriages in the book, the two generations of the family, the issue of infidelity, the concept of family secrets… They are all in my book.

But at a baby shower, I was asked by people I’d just met to explain my book. And most of them were considerably younger and in a different stage of life than I, and I learned something interesting as I went to something I knew instinctively to be the best default : I led with the house as the main character. That is my title after all: Still House. The moment I said, “My story is about a house that attracts two different generations of the same family (but neither realize it at first), and the house spills their secrets,” the listeners leaned in, saying “oooh.”

So that is what I took to lead my pitch.

In the end, two of the three agents asked me to follow up by sending first chapters. And the one who did not was really very helpful and generous, going out of her way to encourage me. Though she was looking for novels that are lighter–more like beach reads–she made a point to tell me she’d read my opening the previous evening, before she knew it was mine, and told me it was the “most compelling” of all the other novel openings presented. She made a point to let me know how polished my writing and professional presentation of myself were. She could have just ended that appointment early and had some down time. But instead, she chatted and offered some tips to help me find the kind of agent I need. Her generosity still astounds me.

The third agent was the one who had a reputation that preceded her. I’d also seen her talk at an agent’s panel and she struck me as abrasive. Let’s just say I didn’t have great expectations when I walked down the few steps and approached her conference table.

So I was surprised when my time with her went well. I didn’t experience any of the things I feared. She was, however, quick to suggest big changes to my story–like ones that would require a complete overhaul. Like, “What if you told the story from another character’s point of view?” She had quick and strong opinions on a story she’d heard described in one paragraph, and it was a little unsettling.

The two agents who were interested in reading my first chapters were both attentive and inquisitive–really asking insightful questions about the inner working of my plot. I think I succeeded each time to be conversational, and not resorting to the halting words of someone painfully spewing line after line of a planned speech. I finally had gotten comfortable enough in telling my story that I could field questions I’d not prepared without panicking and feeling overwhelmed.  And I left with each of the agents’ cards and the specifics on what to send for their next round of consideration.

Through these nine different agents, my pitch and presentation of myself as a writer changed drastically. I think I finally learned the art of a successful pitch.

Onto the next part of the journey!

 

Other posts:

Writing a Novel in 9 minutes a Day? Is that Possible?

When People Treat Pets Like Babies…

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

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Writing a Novel in 9 minutes a Day? Is that Possible?

“The 9 Minute Novelist”–the title of an article I read in 30-second intervals while at a coffee shop with my six-year old.  This article in Writers’ Digest was made for someone like me. Maybe the fact that I have to read articles in 30-second intervals is an indicator, as I’m interrupted by minutes of questions, a spill of tea, the re-ordering of tea, etc. (The spilling of said tea resulting in my need to buy the magazine with said article inside…) The way I read–fitting it in between real-life needs of my kids–mirrors my writing life.

The title drew me in–from sheer disbelief. But a perverse curiosity took over–I didn’t believe it could be true, and yet, what gave this writer the audacity to title the article as such? Did he know something I didn’t? 9 minutes?

After reading the article, I came away with two premises on which this writer’s idea rests. 1) It’s about math. About how many words you can produce in a minute. 2) It’s based on the assumption (true) that if you carve an hour of your day to write, you may be really productive for only a small portion of that time. Perhaps 5-15 minutes only?

Assuming you can write 100 words a minute, he lays out how you should be able write between 300 and 900 words in nine minutes. Mathematically, you’d need only 90 days of this to reach 80,000 words, the average novel length.

All true. I’ll agree, by the math, you can produce that many words. But I know enough about writing to know that out of those 900 words, maybe 100 will actually be good enough to keep. Or maybe all of them will later meet the guillotine of revision.

So it’d be a far cry from reality to submit that arriving at 80,000 words means you’ve written a novel. But I think the author’s point is that, if in 90 days you could actually type 80,000 words–well, you are accomplishing something, After a year of that kind of productivity, maybe you’d have a novel draft.

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His second premise really bugged me. Irritated. Goaded. Because it was spot on. In an hour of writing time, I can accomplish surprisingly little that fills the page.

But I took issue with the idea that it’s possible to write just 9 minutes a day BECAUSE you may write only 9 productive minutes out of an hour. If it takes me an hour to get nine minutes of worth of good stuff done without distraction, can I expect that I can actually just do the 9 minutes of work and not the other 51 minutes it took to get me to the place where I could produce?

So much of the “writing” I accomplish is the fruit of many more minutes of thought, meandering imagination, internet surfing, researching, outlining. diagramming, sketching, webbing…  It’s easy to get frustrated that I accomplish so little actual typing of words into a document, and yet, it is true that all the other things I do (except checking social media) make me able to have something to type. So what could I actually accomplish in 9 allotted minutes to write a day? Break down my ratio, and the way I reckon it, by the time I even orient myself to my writing and gear up for it, I’d have one minute in nine left, then the time is over!

So I blew off , at first, the entire idea that 9 minutes a day of writing time could accomplish anything.

I knew this because I knew I didn’t know where I was going in my current book project. Every time I get writing time, I’m re-reading what I previously wrote, brainstorming, plotting, etc.

Then–I realized–what if I had a game plan, an outline or something? Maybe I actually could accomplish something in short time periods a day.

So this hair-brained idea of “9 minutes a day” spurred me to spend some time writing a sort of outline. Well, a list, really. Well, lists for each character. Just a lot of scenes/events I know need to happen in a certain order. I thought, if I had those lists formed, maybe I could accomplish something in shorter time spans because I could easily look at the game plan and see what to do next; the pre-planning would be done. It wouldn’t require me to think so hard when I can grab writing minutes (very early in the morning for me.)

I haven’t been able to carve out an hour a day. It’s usually between 20 and 45 minutes, just four mornings a week. (Wow, if I put it like that, it seems more depressing than I thought. I’m trying to write a book in half an hour, 4 days a week??? Am I nuts to even try?)

Then, for my birthday, I got a rare day to myself, and I had the mental freedom and time enough to really think about my story. I wrote those outlines/lists of scenes.

For a month now, I’ve had my 20-45 minutes of writing time before I make breakfast, and an amazing thing happened.  I’ve written many scenes and whole chapters! And unlike the process of my first novel, these chapters are ones I KNOW are necessary to my story. (In writing my last novel, I was meandering, trying to find my story AS I wrote.)

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So while I cannot say I’m succeeding at writing a novel in nine minutes a day, I am more productive than I’ve ever been in short spans of time. Because I have a plan, I can much more easily plug in for short time periods.

So my take-away is: I can write a novel in little bits of time–if, and only if–I’ve had a big chunk of time one day to make a least a partial plan, a go-to list for what to do when I have those 9 minutes, or 30.

Really, this isn’t earth-shattering, new information: that you will be more productive if you have a plan. But it is new to me that I must, absolutely must, find a new way to write that is utterly different compared to how I composed my first novel. The last time I began a novel, I had no children, then shortly thereafter, a baby. I had lengths of time in which I wrote. Freedom, somewhat, to meander util I found my story.

But now–with three kids–no. I have to adapt and learn the skill of producing fiction in short increments each day. Time is such a luxury.

Other posts:

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

My Current Step in Publishing: Looking for an Agent

Ever Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

 

 

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Ever Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

Yeah, it’s saying something when you’re the least-favorite teacher in a  one-room-schoolhouse kind of situation. But I’ve felt it.

The weirdest part is, I’m used to being popular. I was a favorite camp counselor, a beloved student teacher, and the kind of school teacher who was used to having kids tell me I was a favorite. Now I homeschool my kids. How can I be a great teacher in a classroom with others’ kids but a poor teacher to my own children?

The Problem:

Because I felt like I was failing last year, I’ve contemplated, what is really the most important factor, the one thing that really makes a difference between a good and great teacher?

Now here’s the confession: I began wondering this for the very honest reason that I saw I was NOT being a great teacher in one area of my life. I worked part-time to tutor and  homeschooled students, and I have been told many times that I am  great at it. My students there show all the indications of enjoying my classes and genuinely liking me as a person.

But I also taught at home, to my own three homeschooled children, and it was not the same. They didn’t seem to enjoy me nearly as much as my older students in the classroom. Some days it was like pulling teeth to get them to do anything, let alone to enjoy it or have a good attitude. The only one who didn’t complain about school was the youngest,  the 4/5 year old who didn’t do very much yet. I counted last year as my worst year homeschooling; we may have  checked off all our boxes of required things, but it didn’t feel great. (And it used to be different; my boys used to enjoy our homeschool.)

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Why did it seem like I could teach anyone else’s students and not my own? Was there an inherent truth to that? (You hear it a lot–from people who don’t homeschool on why they don’t. “I could never teach my own children”; “They’d not listen to me”; “They don’t want to take instruction from me.”) Is this just normal, to be expected? And there’s nothing I can do about it? I’m boring because I’m mom?

Or was it the social aspect? Do I simply need at least 5 kids to re-create the magic that happens with my students in our homeschool group? So I should not hope my 3 kids, different ages, could ever be expected to get that with just me at home? (Note, they do all attend classes two days a week, so they have peer interaction and other tutors/teachers leading them.) Did all my strengths as a teacher apply to only to a larger group of students?

My Hypothesis:

I spent months trying to distill what was going on. I reviewed my ideas of what I thought made a good teacher: good lesson plans, classroom management, creativity, accurate assessment, interesting content, etc. It seemed I could bring all that to my homeschool and still, I was not a beloved teacher in my own house with my own kids as I was with others’ kids. To make a long story short, a series of revelations helped me zero in on the big difference between my classroom of students and my homeschool: the version of me they got. (I wrote about those revelations and conversations with two other teachers in Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are)

Let me break it down for you:

Me teaching other students last year: Me teaching my children last year:
Patient and gracious Often impatient
Quick to laugh; I know students learn more in a relaxed atmosphere Quick to get annoyed or frustrated
Having a sense of humor; it de-escalates a multitude of problems (a student getting frustrated, awkward social situations, incorrect answers, age-related silliness and off-task behaviors) Little sense of humor, heavier on discipline
Exuding joy. (I was described as that by a student who wanted his mom to drive him further to be in my class again) What? Joy? How about low energy, even boredom?
Gracious about mistakes, missed assignments, poor performance Quick to scold for mistakes, missed assignments, poor performance
Seeking to encourage. Sometimes seeking to encourage; sometimes just frustrated they needed more encouragement
Pray for them individually before class, asking God to help me be what they need from me that day. Yes, I pray for them but don’t start every morning with this intentionality with the same intensity.
Cheerleading, praising successes. Not giving enough time for celebrating their accomplishments. Quick to move on.
Alert, prepared, ready to give of myself. Tired.
Looking for ways to say “yes” and solve students’ problems. Quick to say “no,” and sometimes hoping not to solve problems, especially in ways that require energy.
Pleasant to be around. Not always pleasant to be around.

Ouch, that one list is embarrassing. If I could sum it up, I could just say, the difference was, I was “pleasant to be around” with other peoples’ kids. Really? It comes down to that?

I could talk about other things going on. Relate the fact that last year, I was struggling with a health issue that justifiably wiped me out. Tiredness or chronic pain can sap your creativity and patience, not just your energy. We could talk about how teaching your own kids every day is more draining than a group of kids you see only once a week. True. There are challenges you face with the every-day (all-day) kids that a once-a-week teacher never has to deal with. All true. I could cut myself some slack for not being able to give my two groups of students the same experience.

But in the end, it wasn’t ok with me, no matter the whys. I wanted to enjoy teaching my children; I wanted them to enjoy their education at home.

The Changes I Made:

So this most recent school year, I went into it with my eyes open to this factor of pleasantness with my kids.

But the year started out pretty rough. My sons came off of last year with a seemingly bitter taste still in their mouths. It was like the February sludge in late August–like they’d not had a break in months and were weary from the word go. They were uncooperative, negative and openly saying they disliked school to anyone who would ask. We had a rough few weeks. I even had to tie their allowance to their demonstrated attitude about schoolwork.

But while all the above was going on, I worked at being more like the teacher I am with my once-a-week class. I worked at being quick to laugh and having a sense of humor; for me it seemed the gateway to all the rest. If I’m quick to laugh and have a sense of humor, it is easier to cultivate patience and graciousness. Having a  sense of humor helps me stay in the moment, and that’s where the joy comes in. I’m really with them, tracking with them, and that gives me a lot of energy as I truly enjoy them. (True for my teen students; true for my kids too–what d’ya-know!) I also worked on my sleep schedule so that I’m better rested, after abusing that. (Look into the affect of blue light from screens on the quality of your sleep.)

And I changed some of my homeschool goals so that I would be more pleasant. I have a son old enough that he could read literature all by himself with little interaction from me, but I decided to plan into our day time to talk with him about the books he’s reading, not just because I think it’s super important to discuss ideas in the books (English teacher here!), but also, because I think that’s perhaps the most likely place for me to be pleasant and enjoy what we’re doing. (Sometimes, you have to help yourself; set yourself up to succeed.) I could have streamlined our school day by delegating that to independent study, but I did not, in order to make me a better teacher and so he may enjoy our learning more.

The Results:

We’re about half-way through this school year, and I can easily say I’m a much better teacher for my kids this year. And my kids are now cooperative, laughing, interested more often than not, and no longer acting like surly sloths. Over the holiday, someone asked one of my sons if he liked being homeschooled (and he’s usually an honest kid; I’ve heard him tell people “no” before), and without hesitation, this time he said “yes.”

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We have laughed a lot more. I’m more patient. I am more inclined to follow their laughter and silliness rather than try to stop it and redirect them to efficiency, talking to them about “time.” I have been more patient in the way I handle their math time, even adding in games for one of them to make a non-loved subject less painful. I have been determined to be patient with the pace they need and the pace that allows us to enjoy life and our studies. I have consciously been aware of my impatience or boredom some days and chosen to be patient and gracious. These are all things I’ve done with students who aren’t my kids–because I know they work, build our rapport and, in the end, help accomplish more learning in the end.

There is something to be said about the fact that I, and maybe other teachers, show a better side to others’ children while just expecting more from our children without the same level of graciousness toward them. Does it come from the fact that I know if I’m not running a classroom students enjoy being in, I won’t be hired again and/or students whose parents choose to pay to put them in my class will not choose to? My children don’t pay to be in my class or my family; they have no choice. I know better than to be a boring or unpleasant teacher with a negative attitude when it comes to classrooms with others’ children. And yet, I allowed myself to be that way with my own kids for a time. I wonder how many homeschool parents can relate to this.

But recognizing it’s possible, common or even likely to happen doesn’t mean I’m ok with it. I got into this homeschooling gig because I wanted my kids to LOVE learning and to enjoy learning at their own pace.

So I’m continuing this year of homeschool, asking myself, “What would Mrs. Lannan Do?” and applying it to what Teacher Mom should do.

If anyone else out there is recognizing this in themselves, let me encourage you that it doesn’t have to stay that way. It is correctable. You can be a better teacher for your kids!

It’s one of those things you choose, and choose again. Every day. Sometimes every hour or minute by minute. I have to cultivate it to make it become my habit.

So today when my 9 year old son was being silly, interrupting his own reading lesson by telling some boy-humor joke related to bodily functions, I sat and watched him talk with a smile on his face and considered my options: to be annoyed, to demand him to stop and press on with the lesson, or to take two seconds and laugh with him. I decided I could afford a few seconds to laugh with him because of what it gave him. It gave him mirth. He was comfortable, he was relaxed, he was enjoying something. He always reads better and learns more when he’s in that mood. And if he later repeatedly tries to get off topic and be silly, I can keep my sense of humor and draw him back–without having to stomp out his smile. It’s what I know works so well with other peoples’ children…

Other blog posts:

A Late Reader a Gifted Reader?

Books My Son Likes: Flora and Ulysses

Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques

 

 

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Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are

I’ve had two conversations of epiphany with two different teacher friends of mine. We had these astonishing revelations, at the same time, of why we are better teachers now than when we were younger. (And what makes a teacher “great” anyway…) Our second decade of teaching brought us all to the same realization.

The first conversation was with a friend from college coming to a city near me for a conference. We met up for dinner in Philly during my favorite time of year to be in that city: Christmas, with all its lights and tinsel winking like the heaven dusted the city with stars.

We’d both been English majors who’d earned teaching licenses, but the years had led us down very different paths with our degrees. Though neither of us had a full-time teaching job at a school in many years, we’re both nonetheless teaching professionally in ways we didn’t foresee. One of the topics of conversations I’ve been chewing on in the more than year since then is, What makes a great teacher?

One of the concepts that stuck from my teacher preparation courses is that being “reflective” is one of the most important qualities a teacher should have. Figuring out what works and why is important.

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In my 20s, I answered that question, “What makes a great teacher?” with a variety of things over the years as I gained more experience teaching:

  1. interesting lesson plans
  2. creativity
  3. lesson plans so completely planned to a variety of unexpected outcomes so I was never caught with nothing to engage students
  4. effective classroom management skills
  5. good, fair assessment techniques
  6. teaching/training students how to respect each others
  7. building a positive class atmosphere

In recent years (the second decade since college graduation), I’ve been thinking the last two are the most important things a teacher can do to help students in class to increase students’ ability to learn as well as succeed in life. (I’ve written about it a lot, starting with Creating an Encouraging Classroom.)

What about my list? Do I think I still make good plans, exercise creativity, etc? Am I better because of of those got better?

Well, many of those items have really loosened up. My lesson plans are not quite meticulously over-planned as they once were. (Honestly, most of my lesson plans are scribbles on post-it notes.) Creativity? Well, some tell me I’m creative, but they didn’t know what I used to do–when I was a crazy person, single, without kids, and sunk inordinate amounts of time in things that were creative for the sake of being creative. I’ve learned (through necessity) to dial it way down. Perhaps I’m not less creative or have inferior lesson plans, but maybe I’ve just learned to do both in a smarter way. Maybe I’ve internalized elements of good lesson plans so thoroughly that I don’t need to spell it out anymore.

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I do spend as much attention as ever to classroom management and teaching the students how to respectfully communicate with each other. I think those are necessary; I’ve found no short-cut. No way around them if you have a classroom full of students. Good classroom management and an atmosphere of respect allow everything else I desire to occur.

But my friend and I were learning something new–and from funny situations. Teaching in on-the-fly situations, weird-context situations and times we didn’t have it all together. (Because, let’s be honest, we were moms now with 3 kids each, the youngest approaching 5, and we just couldn’t be as polished and prepared on paper as we were trained to be…) And yet, we’re better. And not just because we have enough experience to be able to wing some lesson plans. We know enough to know it takes more than knowledge to pull anything off, especially on a whim or when unprepared.

More than 15 years post graduation, my friend and I were coming, independently, to the same conclusion. There is something else is even more important than the items on my list that enables those to even succeed. She called it “using your personality.” What? Personality? She talked about “personality” as though it were a tool to utilize.

As we tried to put our fingers on exactly what was making us better, we were using words like “personality,” being “ourselves” more, being more “relaxed,” building “rapport” better. We were getting closer to distilling these words to a concept that maybe was so ridiculously simple (though not easy). Yet so important.

I was told in my 20s that a strength of mine was building rapport by the principal who  visited my class within a month of my hire.

But I wasn’t a great teacher yet. There’s more that I needed that I didn’t have yet then. You can build rapport in many ways. Even poor ways. You can build rapport with certain students through sarcasm and other negative ways that don’t benefit all people or lend to a positive atmosphere in your class. So it has to be about more than just connecting to students any ol’ way that works. And it includes things like “personality”; being”relaxed,” being “ourselves.”

Since then, I’ve been thinking it’s one word: pleasant. My ability (or choice?) to be pleasant. Can it really be that simple? Being more pleasant as i age is what is making me a better teacher?

I met with another teacher friend recently for dinner. She has 20 years in teaching English As a Second Language in public high schools. We had this amazing conversation about how we’ve changed since our twenties, and she shared what she was better at and what made her better. And I shared my revelation with her and we just stared at each other: we had been thinking the same thing.

We were simply pleasant to be around. Add that to our content knowledge, experience, lesson planning ability and creative ideas, and we are so much better?

Were we unpleasant when we were younger? We talked about knowing we were once more impatient with students. Less understanding. Quick to say things like, “Well, if you’d started the assignment when I assigned it…” Quicker to bring justice than mercy. To have “I told you so” attitudes. Quick to point out failings. Less tolerant. And yet, we considered ourselves good teachers and were told we were. And we knew of plenty other teachers with really bad reputations and considered ourselves young, fresh, creative and a breath of fresh air.

But we know we are so very different now. Now we’d say we’re quick to laugh, quick to find opportunities to recognize joy and take them. We’re more relaxed and more gentle. Pleasant to be around.

If I think of a typical day with my students, I laugh a lot. Because I know it’s an elixir. Good humor covers over many things. Good-natured laughter can make frustration dissipate, offense lessen, wandering attention harnessed, disinterest disappear, stress relax, lack of engagement reverse. And it can make kids feel comfortable. Having a classroom people enjoy being in is a top priority. Students learn the most when they are comfortable and feel accepted, relaxed and secure.

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In my classroom, I am also generally more patient, gracious and encouraging. I intentionally look for opportunities to be so. I wasn’t intentional about all these things when I started teaching.

And in all that, I’m still strict–as strict as my first students would probably say I was. I’m strict about what is allowed to fly in my classroom, including how people treat others, how they speak, what words they use, etc. I have expectations and standards that have not loosened. (In fact, I think they have tightened over the years.)

This friend at dinner also said something about ego. We’ve realized it’s not about us, our lessons, our “great ideas,” our creativity. We’re different in our demeanor because it’s about the students and what the students need. I’m much more motivated now by what my students need from me as a person, whereas I used to be more motivated by what I thought students needed academically and what they needed from me as a lesson planner with knowledge to transmute to them. I think more now in terms of ministry, asking God what I need to be for my students.

Letting go of the ego is why we have the freedom to be more pleasant; we’re not trying to prove ourselves.

I still teach content. I still think it’s valuable. I’m still passionate about many of the things I teach about. But I’m way more passionate about what my students need most: for me to enjoy them, encourage them, build them up. For me to be quick to laugh, show good humor rather than high stress. To be pleasant to be around. That is the difference. Our classrooms are better places, lessons go better, and relationships are better. In every way we know to measure, we’re doing better by our students.

So my mantra is now this: Be pleasant, and when given the choice between frustration or laughter, choose laughter.

P.S. If anyone here is a homeschooler, this factor, or lack thereof, played out in my homeschool life versus my outside-the-home teaching. Actually, this comparison led me to the conclusions of this article: Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

 

Other posts:

Books My Son Likes: Wonder

Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Classroom Management and Motivational Techniques

Feel Like You’re the Least Favorite Teacher In Your Homeschool?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a Failed Blogger; How to Turn It Around

In the past, I tried writing two different blogs. Both failed. Failed both in the sense that I gave up and also in the sense that they were so rarely read.

I know exactly why. What I was doing is on experts’ “what not to do” lists. Like, don’t write about writing if you’re a writer. (So over-done, even if you’re a successful writer.)

But I’ve felt the PRESSURE to have a blog. The MUST-have-a-blog pressure. Because if you want to publish books in this ol’ world, you must have an online presence and platform. These were truths I cringed at. I’m a novelist. I don’t have time for a blog too! I am lucky I get my teeth brushed sometimes, between all the demands of mothering, tutoring, homeschooling, running a house, maintaining a marriage, and writing/editing my own novels! And to succeed takes every ounce of my creativity to manage fitting that into my life at all, I have to–on top of all that–write a BLOG!!!

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Yeah. Just a little bitterness.

I created 2 blogs years  ago but never really wanted to be doing either of them. When I started, I tried to make it less painful by writing about what was on my mind already, or easy. But still, my heart wasn’t really in it. And blogs like that have a major flaw: if I’m not considering a reader or writing something readers NEED, how can I expect it to be read, except by very dear friends who just care how I think?

You Really Can Grow an Audience, Even If You Have No Fame…

But my current blog, my third, is faring much, much better. I changed what I write about and my entire purpose and strategy for it.

I’m now in my third year for this new blog. In my best months, my blog has gotten 8,000 to 10,000 reads a month. I started by garnering 32 reads total for one blog post. IN its entire life. But now, two of my most popular posts, Basics of Drawing: Fine Arts, Week 1 and Mirror Image Lion Drawing: Week Two now have over 5,000 and 6,000 reads respectively. I’m no celebrity blogger; I have no name recognition. But having that many complete strangers read anything I wrote on the internet, without a magazine to push it, is pretty darn great from my perspective. What changed?

Expert Advice Changed My Blogging Popularity

A blogging expert once instructed me that, to succeed in blogging, you have to create content that people want, that people need. Connecting to them is another story, but first, you need to write about things that people want to read–but even more, that they will search for.

My writing about how I’m working on my novel did not fit that definition. My two failed blogs were the kind only close friends would care to know about.

But nearly two and half years ago, I started posting my drawing lesson plans that I use with classes of kids. At the time, I was instructing older elementary aged kids in a homeschool group, and I knew that around the country, there were literally thousands of people who are contracted to teach the same drawing lesson topics in the same program franchised throughout the nation. Well, at least I knew theoretically that someone may have been interested.

 

The month I posted four drawing lessons, my blog hits record went from 32 in one month to over 10,000 that month. I’d connected with other instructors through a Facebook group just for us. And I also saw that some people found my lessons by googling the key words of the lesson topics.

So I’d finally, after three blog sites, found content people wanted, needed, even asked me for. Those who taught the age group I did looked for my lessons specifically, and some followed me and asked if I was going to post future lessons, and a year later, I got messages asking if I planned to share lessons again, and the next. Each year, my lessons are read at higher rates.

There was a time I thought, I don’t have the time to scan each step of my drawing examples and write up instructions so another teacher can run with it! It is time-consuming. And as a once-paid freelance writer, I did some balking at providing content for free that media used to pay for.

But when I finally decided to simply be generous, everything changed.

Generosity Generates Meaningfulness

A surprising side-effect is the exhilaration of actually helping people. Hearing that the lessons helped students around the country, and hearing other instructors tell me they gained confidence in their own abilities to lead art classes–well, that’s an amazing thing to be part of that.

I never set out to blog about teaching-related topics. My goal for my blog was to follow the advice of Kristen Lamb who suggests that you are your own brand, and successful blogs can come from you writing about a variety of things that in combination define/interest you. (This advice is in opposition to long-time advice of media experts who say that you must find a niche and write about only that one thing.) She also talks about writing high-concept posts; I’ll have to work on that some other time… I’ve followed that advice a couple time…but mostly not…

So it just happens to be true that what I have to give directly benefits other teachers and instructors and tutors. Aside from art lessons, I’ve also shared a series of posts on classroom management for middle school age students .

 

I learned those posts gave people information and ideas they were asking for, searching for. Just as I was sometimes desperately searching for help for music or science classes, and I benefited from other generous instructors who shared their wealth of knowledge and experience, I could share the wealth of what I’d learned over approximately two decades of working with students. God took me on a journey, and it has given me some wisdom; I’ve learned better ways of being and doing. I have something useful to give.

I reached the stage of my life where I’ve felt that I am exactly where God meant me to be, where, as author Frederick Beuchner puts it, my “greatest joy meets the worlds greatest needs.” Well, maybe not the world’s… but on a smaller scale…

It’s amazing to know you have something to give back AND to know how to communicate it AND to actually connect with people who are actively looking for what you can provide.

Creating meaningful content that people appreciate creates its own high.

So now, in my third year of this very blog, I’m writing about a variety of topics–everything from reviews about middle grade/YA novels my son likes, parenting issues, classroom management, homeschooling topics, and the impact other writers have had on me. I like that my content flows organically from just simply my life; I can write a curriculum review or about Round-Up spray and resultant cancer that killed my father (My Dad, Monsanto and Christmas Trees). I never know which posts are going to take off. I’ve been greatly surprised more than once.

 

 

I can share recipes that would be valued by other busy homeschool moms or share ready-to-travel breakfasts (Three Quick, Nutritious Go-To Breakfasts) for the day my kids and I go for classes with our community, or about Eating Grain Free/Sugar Free at Hershey Park.

Getting Traction

Here’s some encouragement for friends who blog with the goal to gain readership: it’s really true what they say–the more you post, the more traction you get. I noticed last month that my lowest daily number of hits on my blog are the same or even better than my best days of my first 6 months. Example: one of my early posts got a total of 32 reads. Ever. And that was all within a couple days of posting. And that was my most-read post in the beginning 6 months. But for the past year, my blog got an average of over 86 reads a day, even when I’ve not posted anything in weeks, (or in the case of last autumn, nothing for months).

Connecting to People Who Want to Know What I Know

And the beauty of it is, I’m now connecting with people who can find help and answers and ideas–or at least the camaraderie of shared experience–in my posts about every day life. I’ve learned how to:

Finding Your Audience

You can do this by:

  1. Sharing in online groups of people where you already are, people who do what you do (or have done). That was a game-changer for me.

Also, sometimes when I’m in groups of people online and someone asks, “Can anyone recommend any books for a reluctant reader son?”

Well, I can share what I’ve already recorded on my blog, and people thank me because it’s just what they were looking for! Or, some other teachers or tutors are struggling with managing 13 year old boys in a class and ask for help. I can briefly reply that I’ve taught that age group for many years,  and that I can share what I’ve found that works well for me, and attach a post describing my philosophy and methods. I’m too busy wearing all my hats in life to usually write long answers, so having a post written about it already means I can actually help.

2. Creating content on information you think others will literally search for (and use good keywords and tags for your post!)

For example, I’d looked for tips about eating grain-free at Hershey Park and found nothing, so I decided to do it myself at the end of summer. (We went so many times last summer after being gifted season passes.) And that’s something other grain-free people want to know, something they will google; my writing can provide solutions. I like writing with a purpose.

And as a sign that my writing is truly answering a need, I now see others posting my blogs in answer to others’ questions, testifying that it helped them with that same concern/question/need.

Today, I also just found out that the Artsy Craftsy Mom blog linked to one of my art projects); her website kept showing up in my list of addresses that drive traffic to my site. Links from other bloggers have occurred before, but I think this is the first time it was for an art lesson.

I was so surprised to find today, just in looking at my stats differently, that one of my posts has been the #1 most-read for 16 weeks in a row, at a rate of 40-70 hits each week. I had no idea. Maybe lions are popular? Maybe mirror-image drawing is popular? Unsure…I seriously had no idea.I also looked into why my lion mirror image drawing gets so many hits–every day. I found that multiple people have pinned it on Pinterest.

I’ve not arrived as a super successful blogger by any means, but it has reached the stage of being meaningful. I’ve met at least the beginning of the intersection between worthwhile content and connecting with the people who are looking for it.

So You Want to Start A Blog….?

If you are considering blogging, my best advice to you is: Don’t shrink back from writing because you think there is nothing new, and everything you could say has already been said. It is truth, don’t get me wrong. I know everything I write about is being done by many other people, every day. But as I shared with a friend who started blogging within the past year about raising foster kids they adopted: Sure, maybe many others are blogging on the same topics–but people you are connected with may never connect with the other people writing about it. There are people only you can reach; there are ideas only you will be in the right place to introduce to someone within your sphere of influence.

Yes, there are other people who can do or have done everything I have to offer on my blog–but I am uniquely connected to the people I know and who are in my sphere of influence.

Some writers get paralyzed, thinking thy have to offer content unique in all the world. Very few people in a century can really claim that. All you have to offer is helpful content for your sphere of influence.  In the world of online content and blogging as it is, it is actually necessary that many bloggers are covering the same things; there is such a glut of information. Many, many amazing bloggers will never be known to people who could benefit from reading their work. So it’s up to us to write what we can if it helps those who find us. Whether it’s 30 or 200 or 3,000 people.

 

Other posts:

Ten Mom Excuses Not to Get Around to Blogging

Second-Decade Teacher Wisdom: It’s Really About HOW You Are

Books My Son Likes: Wonder

When People Treat Pets Like Babies…

Best Advice to Beginning Novelists: Don’t Write Chapter 1

The Ink They Left On Me: Writers Anne Lamott and Tracy Chevalier

 

 

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